Something about ants really gets me.
Every time I see one I step on it or squash it,
And I relish the acrid smell of formic acid
Which is the signature of its death throes.
Even walking on the street, I’ll go out of my way
To snuff a solitary ant on its humble business.
Each day on average I usually kill dozens,
And on certain days around food spills or
Finding some teeming nest of theirs,
I may kill thousands, not with poisons
But the old-fashioned way by crushing
With rapid blows of my hands and feet
Until the air reeks with the acid of massacre
And leaves a carnage of tiny twisted bodies
Lying in quivering piles amidst telltale streaks.
And yet, there is not a single time this happens,
That I do not immediately feel a pang of guilt
And wonder about the Hindu plea for all beings.
I castigate myself for dishonoring the sanctity of life
And remember William Blake’s admonition that
“Everything that lives is holy,” and feel deep remorse.
Quickly I strive to justify my murderous actions
Invoking the age-old law of tooth and claw,
Nature’s dark and chthonic way.
There is a battle here, I say,
To the death between Man and Insect.
I only do what they would do to us
If our situations were reversed—
Were they bigger and we the small.
Do you imagine that an ant would hesitate
To show you mercy were the advantage his?
No, any ant anywhere would use his pincers
To take your life the same way I take his.
We are but warriors on a plain of strife
Fulfilling our genetic species destiny.
And yet, they have some consciousness too.
They know all too well when they are being hunted,
As their pre-doom panicky scurryings testify.
I supposedly possess a higher consciousness,
A soul inherently predisposed to compassion,
A Buddha nature I can willingly choose to reveal.
Now a wave of loving warmth suffuses me
And I bask in a glow of godliness
Which lingers and inspires me
Until I spot another ant.
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